BLACKSBURG, Va. -

Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe adopted different strategies Thursday as they prepared for the debate -- one out of the public eye in Blacksburg, the other rallying the troops in Roanoke.

McAuliffe spent his day in Blacksburg, but he was out of sight focusing on Thursday night’s debate.

With Cuccinelli running from behind in recent polls, he didn't waste the opportunity to encourage supporters in Roanoke.

Republicans crowded into a local campaign office to see Cuccinelli with North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory.

After one of his supporters encouraged him to be a pit bull in the Blacksburg debate, Cuccinelli told reporters he was looking forward to pointing out the differences between the candidates.

“Yeah, I'm going to hit it hard,” Cuccinelli said. “Elections are about contrasts. We've talked about Obamacare, a major contrast. Taxes and spending is a major contrast. Energy is a major contrast. There is a lot of opportunity for that in substantive policy areas, and I intend to drive that tonight.”

State and local Democrats provided counterpoint to the Republican rally from an RV parked across the street. And Virginia Democratic Party Executive Director Lauren Harmon predicted McAuliffe would knock it out of the park tonight.

“I'm looking for Terry to hold him accountable for his extreme positions,” Harmon said. “I think we're going to see Cuccinelli certainly try to run toward the middle, but we all know the truth of where he's really stood. And Terry's going to call him out on it.”

And while Cuccinelli might have more at stake than McAuliffe, both Republicans and Democrats say Thursday night’s meeting is an important moment for both candidates in the final stretch of a hard-fought campaign.